Friday, December 5, 2008

Geeks and TV

I read an article in a recent WIE magazine about how to get more women into computer science/engineering. The lady said all this stuff about how law has done it (not at the partner level, but at the law school and associate level), and so has medicine (I think women are now 50+% of medical students). Why not in engineering?

After I read that article, I thought long and hard about the best way to get more women into engineering - I think it really boils down to a perception issue. You want to know why Law and Medicine did it? Two answers:

ER and Ally McBeal.

Ok, not really, but there really are a lot of shows on TV that totally glorify law and medicine, and on top of that the shows are really about hot sexy people having hot sexy sex with each other. Think of one show about hot sexy engineering having hot sexy sex in an engineering building. Mmmm....ZERO.

Honestly, I think this raises the mental accessibility of Law and Medicine to women, because obviously there are lot of women in these shows in order for the men to have someone to have hot sexy sex with. Thus, both genders are well represented in these disciplines, and moreover, they are always having hot sexy sex so everyone wants to be a Doctor or a Lawyer to have this life.

In the last few years there have been a few geeky shows on TV that at least SHOW geeky people are somewhat main characters instead of just ancillary caricatures. Of course, they are all men, but I suppose it's a start. Geek representation on TV is a whole other subject. For now, I'll just review these shows.

Big Bang Theory:

This show airs on CBS and is about a bunch of total geeks who are friends, and the shenanigans they get into because a beautiful blonde girl moves in across the hall. These are geeks at their most...stereotypical.

The Indian Guy - in the few episodes I've seen what I learned about him is that he cannot speak to women. He is like, physically unable to speak to a member of the female sex, he's too scared.

The Jewish Guy with the Bowl Cut - he is the one who thinks about sex all the time.

The Arrogant Sociopathic Guy - this guy is not REALLY sociopathic but he totally denigrates things like feelings and emotions, reveres only logic and rational thought, and considers himself God's gift to Science.

The Nice Guy - This is the guy who is just that lovable geek that could totally be a girl's best friend, all the while pining for Beautiful Girl while she pines for Wrong Guy, and in the end she may or may not realize that he's the only one that will treat her right and possible also bring home millions as the next Mark Zuckerberg.

All in all, I enjoy the show enough to watch when I channel surf and see it on, but I'm sure it doesn't reach a wide audience. A lot of the jokes are totally out there, but it's quasi-real geek representation. However, it's not the kind of show where people will be saying, "I decided to be an X because of Big Bang Theory" the ways I've heard lots of people say, "I decided to be a lawyer because I loved Law and Order" or "I wanted to get into forensics because I love CSI". No one wants to be these guys...unless you already are total geeks, because these guys are alpha geeks. But I like it, it makes me think fondly of all my geeky friends.


This show is soooo dumb but cute. I kinda like it, enough to actually TiVO it and watch it every now and then.

First of all, Zachary Levi (the dude who plays Chuck) is ADORABLE. I have a soft spot in my heart for geeks, I find extremely "classically" hot dudes kind of repulsive in a way. I have NEVER been a girl to swoon over some abs. I am a girl who swoons over humor and brains. So...Chuck is like, freakin' adorable. I love his hair, his Converse shoes, and his short sleeved button downs.

I watched a TiVO'ed episode yesterday, and he made all these geeky references which weren't over the top, but are the kinds of things that regular geeks (i.e. the ones who aren't stereotypical like the ones in Big Bang) do just in normal life.

1) He talked about how Pluto was no longer a planet and how he was kind of bummed out about it.

2) He talked about using the Force. He was trying to reach something he couldn't reach and just said in passing to himself, "C'mon Chuck, use the Force USE THE FORCE!" That's so something I would do. But I don't think everyone does that. And it's not *out there* but it's just regular geek.

3) He talked about MacGyver. The way he said it you could just tell he was one of those dorky boys as a kid who lived for MacGyver and watched every episode. It was cute.

So...none of the above are crazy geek markers the way the things the dudes in Big Bang do are totally geek markers - Chuck is a normal guy who happens to be a geek, and happens to be adorable. We need more geeks like this on TV. Now, he just needs to have a lot of hot sex with hot sexy she-geeks, kind of like his ex-girlfriend Jill, and we are all set. I loved the exchanges between Chuck and Jill a few episodes ago where they got all gaga over each other from totally geek references. That's how I get over Mr. PhizzleDizzle. When he knows something or figures something out that blows my mind, I want to just jump his bones.

In short, I vote for more hot sexy brainiac geek chicks on TV. We need a engineering Addison Shepard/whatever her maiden name is, an engineering Dr. Noah Wylie, an engineering Ally McBeal, and they need to get into a love triangle meanwhile saving the world over at the NSA with computers and technology.


EthidiumBromide said...

Do engineers have hot sexy sex? My father is an engineer.. and all his friends and fraternity brothers are engineers... and I'm pretty sure none of them ever fell into the hot sexy sex category... in fact, my mother told me I should NOT marry my husband the doctor and instead marry an engineer because they are nice and stable and won't run off with someone else and divorce you. there was definitely no mention of hot sexy sex in there.

I was a math minor, so my classes were full of engineers, and I'm pretty sure none of them ever had hot sexy sex...

I'm just saying here... I mean, think of all the girls that would start in engineering for the hot sexy sex, and then drop out upon the realization of what is really waiting for them. :)

JLK said...

I second EBr's sentiments.

The only way to pull it off would be for some women engineers to be having hot, sexy sex with some hot, sexy architects or construction workers or something.

Because male engineers are just way too type A and antisocial for hot, sexy sex.

I know, it's a stereotype, but it's based on experience.

PhizzleDizzle said...

I agree - mostly. But I also know a non-trivial number of engineers who are totally cool regular people with geek tendencies (i.e. just happen to find geek stuff interesting the way, say, you guys might find social science or cells interesting) and they could totally have hot sexy sex, and probably do but just don't tell me about it (imagine that!). I have hot sexy sex, myself, and I love dork talk.

So the question is - do you think doctors and lawyers, as a rule, have lots of hot sexy sex? If you ask me, there is nothign more boring than torte reform and yet these shows make law seem like the most exciting thing in the world and all the men are ripped and all the women are voluptuous - but we all know that's not true. And Mr. PhizzleDizzle is in the medical area and the hospital is NOT like ER or Grey's Anatomy.

So...I don't think it would be so bad if more people suddenly perceived engineering as cool and made it cooler just by entering the field and drowning out the Aspergers-afflicted subset.

There were several men in my dept. that, had I not been with Mr. PhizzleDizzle, I totally would have considered "doing". They were pretty cool dudes. I would bet that a number of them would be considered "doable" by the majority of women too.

Juniper Shoemaker said...

"Torte reform"? Torture reform? Either way, yes, probably not as stimulating as the hot sexy sex parts of the program. :)

In retrospect, I realize that one of the reasons the child-me preferred books to TV was the relative ease of identifying with protagonists I liked. (As long as we're talking about finding role models in science, I may as well chime in on this.) In books, you have unparalleled imaginative freedom, no matter how specifically the author describes the characters. They can't fully mitigate the effects of visual culture on people's perceptions, though. And a lot of books featuring brainy scientist characters contain the same disheartening cliches (hackers are Alpha Geek guys, women can't do math, blacks are jolly, fat, and "cool", no one can display both scientific and artistic proclivities, etc.) one finds on TV. It was worse when I was a kid, though. I really think it's slowly changing for the better.

After all, hot sexy sex cliches are far, far preferable to disheartening cliches. And it's not like my parents really let me watch TV as a kid, anyway. :)

PhizzleDizzle said...

ooops, Juniper I meant tort reform. Tortes are cakes!


You're right too - I loooooved books growing up and if you read books, you can't enforce notions of "suaveness", coolness, and looks quite as well.

Juniper Shoemaker said...

I've always spelled it "torte". Oh, well. Yay cakes, whatever their grammar may be!

Eppendork said...

I love the big bang theory - I love Sheldon! He gets the best lines :) I loved his doppler effect costume - wish I had thought of it. Good lord I am a science geek - oh dear.


microbiologist xx said...

Oddly enough, I had a conversation about Pluto and the force this past week. No, not at the same time.
In addition to being a science geek, I fully qualify as a Star Wars geek as well. I've spent enough time waxing poetic about Star Wars that I should probably have an honorary PhD in that too. :)

PhizzleDizzle said...

Eppendork - haha, yes, Sheldon - he totally does have the best lines. His part cracks me up, though I'm kind of glad I don't have to work with him :).

MXX - I just watched Star Wars Ep. III the other day on Spike. I think of the Prequels that's my favorite. It doesn't have Jar Jar Binks, which in my book adds 20 quality points, plus I just liked it.

If only we could get honorary PhDs in everything we know lots of random shiz about. I would get a PhD in Star Trek the Next Generation.

ScientistMother said...

is it sad that when I saw Big Bang Theory, I though "OMG that is me and my friend!"

PhizzleDizzle said...

SM - no. It's awesome :).

Haz said...

What's your take on Numb3rs then? Uber math geek in a CSI setting.

And if you want hot sexy sex geek-dome, there's always the uncut version of Hackers.

PhizzleDizzle said...

Hmmmmm.....Numb3rs is where I kind of feel torn. I find the show itself stupid, because it's so unrealistic. I've only seen a few episodes but I'm always like, "that is so unrigorous" or "you so cannot draw that conclusion." Hence, I don't watch it.

At the same time, I know all these legal shows and hospital shows are also largely unrealistic. My husband sometimes watches Grey's with me and says like, "that's not how it works." But it doesn't turn him off the way silly science broadcasted as science on TV turns me off.

But, now that I think about it, I suppose these shows have to be sort of unrealistic to have mass appeal, whether the subject is law, medicine, forensics, or engineering/math. So maybe I should look at Numb3rs again and not judge so harshly.

Haz said...

The 'over-the-top' approach is definitely needed (or at the very least present in pretty much all of the law, medicine, forensic shows).

My guess is the only reason its harder to get into Numb3rs is because you know what he's talking about to a far greater extent. At least that's the situation I'm in...